a museum is a temporary environment - sort of. it is a vacuum wherein things are composed, arranged and curated to convey meaning, feeling, exaltation, imposition and movement. the museum composes value, it dictates what is useful and important.
prior to being shuttled inside, objects that are displayed in a museum are brought forth in a state of dynamism, and embody the possibility of limitless changes of identity. the museum takes them in, stills and quiets them, and enforces a kind of sterile stasis- things there rest, breathe, crystallize. they do not expand, shift, rearrange or metamorphosize. they might of course be knocked askew during their showcasing, or damaged during their installation, or in fact decompose, decay or slump while on exhibit. but these things were built-in. all anticipatory or planned. in effect, in actuality, the pieces lose their free will once they are installed in a museum. (perhaps not permanently, but for a time at least.) and in some ways, this means that it doesn't matter what they look like, what they have to say, or what they could become. when the museum has shepherded them in, housed and hung them, polished the hooks - this is the moment of volatile momentum, the jurying in. the choosing.
therefore, if what is in the museum (the gallery, the foyer, the bathroom) has already been steeped in values imposed by a curator, we are really deferring our own opinions to their skilled choosing. we exalt the moment objects are voted in or out, not what those objects happen to be (though, if they are visually interesting, they will absorb us after the fact).
enter the Magpie Altars, conglomerations of things arranged and composed. Mostly typically comprised of discarded materials, evidence of travel or trappings of experiences, the Magpie Altars are built on frameworks that invite inspection based on the richness of their materials, and the diagnostic skill in identifying each item's provenance. They demand (or subtly rend) a discourse of origin, value, necessity, beauty or use.